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Kirby's Dream Land (Game Boy) artwork

Kirby's Dream Land (Game Boy) review

"Not so dreamy..."

Kirby's Dream Land played a huge role in my preteen years. It was one of the few games that I could beat in a short amount of time, which gave me the illusion of being a halfway decent gamer. Thanks to that, it rarely left my Game Boy. As you can imagine, I got to know its ins and outs so well that I was eventually able to finish the game without taking a lick of damage. Although I lied to myself and rationalized that the reason I so trounced this title was that I was an awesome player and a master of 2D platformers, the truth was I sucked horribly at most games back then. It never occurred to me that the true reason I was able to get through Dream Land so effortlessly was that it was an incredibly easy game, mostly thanks to its all around lackluster design.

Take level schematics, for instance. You'd think, as Dream Land is a 2D platformer, that developer HAL would have taken Kirby's abilities into account when drafting and designing its five stages. Specifically, it would have been ideal to craft levels that put Kirby's abilities to the test, thereby making the game both challenging and engaging. Yet, Kirby never seems to be at a disadvantage throughout the campaign. This is especially so when Kirby goes toe to toe with members of the game's rogues gallery. Most enemies are merely temporary nuisances, particularly because Kirby's main ability is that he can inhale opponents and use them as projectile. Almost all of the enemies fall victim to this power easily because they move slowly and calmly, rarely posing much of a threat. Even those who are resistant to swallowing can be taken out easily by sucking in air and using that as a projectile. Yeah, that's right, you can even use the air around you as a weapon.

Worse, there's no need to engage most foes or even whole obstacles in order to survive a stage, as the air-sucking ability allows you to float for an indefinite amount of time. With this ability, you can skip many of the game's troubles by inflating yourself and floating past them. Level one is the worst offender, as much of the stage is a lengthy, uncomplicated stretch of land with various cute henchmen frolicking about. Why bother dealing with them when it's faster and easier to float past them? That might lead you to wonder why the developers even bothered placing enemies there in the first place.

Kirby's Dream Land assetKirby's Dream Land asset

Unfortunately, this makes for dreary and overly easy playing. There's little need to commit to or engage in stages, with a few exceptions. Stage two, for instance, tries to tighten things up by thrusting you into a fairly closed-in castle, but fails to deliver any challenging situations that make the best of its claustrophobia-inducing design. Another segment features enemies that resemble floating pig heads. These suckers cannot be eaten, and will furthermore chase you when you attempt to swallow them. Upon colliding with your sprite, they explode and cause a fair amount of damage. They might seem like challenging enough foes, but a modicum of experimentation reveals that there is a simple way to destroy them. Sadly, even as the toughest of Dream Land's sinister crew, they're also little more than a temporary nuisance.

Bosses could have provided some challenge, but most of them run fairly simple patterns that can be easily memorized. They also tend to telegraph their attacks long before executing them, giving you plenty of time to prepare for what they have in store for you. This is even true about the final boss. For instance, sometimes King Dedede runs in place, signifying that he's about charge at you. All you have to do was get airborne and float over him. Thanks to the vast amount of overhead space in this battle, dodging this particular attack isn't an issue.

Despite Dream Land's unfortunate flaws, players can still find solace in the game's undeniable charm. For starters, it's an overall adorable game starring a cast of doe-eyed villains and cartoony miscreants. Sadly, they're so cute that taking this game to task is rather painful. I just can't look into those cute little faces and say, "Sorry, fellas, but this adventure isn't so great these days."

Kirby's Dream Land assetKirby's Dream Land asset

Even the music is charming. Normally, I find scores that over-utilize high-pitched tones to be grating, but Dream Land's soundtrack is actually quite pleasant and relaxing, especially the track for stage three. There you munch/float your way through tropical islands while a calm ditty plays, exuding the feeling that you're on a soothing island getaway rather than a murderous rampage that involves binging and purging the opposition to death.

I wish I still loved Kirby's Dream Land, but the game honestly bores me to tears these days. Primarily I blame the its design, as it doesn't take Kirby's awesome powers into account by creating situations that put his abilities to the test. Instead, the game gives Kirby way more advantages than any platformer hero ever needs. However, I'm not saddened by the dissipation of my love for this installment. After all, the Kirby brand still offers some worthwhile titles, so it's not like I can't find a game to assuage any future Kirby cravings.


JoeTheDestroyer's avatar
Community review by JoeTheDestroyer (May 11, 2013)

Rumor has it that Joe is not actually a man, but a machine that likes video games, horror movies, and long walks on the beach. His/Its first contribution to HonestGamers was a review of Breath of Fire III.

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